Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A new expression for the General

General Hillier, in an interview with Don Martin, offers up what seems to be one of his all time favourite things to say, we hear it so often after all:
Defence spending roared into an $18-billion budget item that bought new tanks, LAVs, helicopters, heavy lift aircraft and cargo planes.

“The term would be revolutionary. We were dying as Canadian forces 10 years ago and having come through the decade of darkness, we were at our lowest ebb,” General Hillier said in an interview. “The difference is now that by and large Canadians have woken up and taken ownership of their Canadian Forces.”
The infamous "decade of darkness" quote from Hillier lives on. How many times have we heard him say this? Most recently, in his opening statement to the Afghanistan special committee: "...after a decade of darkness that was the culmination of many, many years of lower funding and lack of support that we perceived..." Have we heard this highly charged expression from any other military leader? Probably not as vocally and not in such public forums as Hillier has taken the opportunity to do. This is the former chief of defence staff and he just won't give it a rest.

It's not inappropriate for a military leader to advocate funding for greater military resources, that's what any government department does on its behalf, in its own interest. That's not the issue. It's the politically charged phrasing that he continues to deploy, suggesting a decided orientation, despite his book's stories of fights with the Prime Minister's office, for example. Because using the phrasing, on an ongoing basis, feeds into the current Conservative modus operandi of politicizing the military, portraying Conservatives as on the military's side, as the party that supports the troops to the exclusion of others. Hillier must know this, yet he continues to do it.

He's obviously got his opinions, as narrowly expressed as they are, and we will continue to be subjected to them. There's not much one can do about it except draw attention to it and object. If military spending was cut in the 1990s or is cut in the future, that's a legitimate decision open to any government to make and it's not for the military to politically muckrake about. The military leadership should not align itself with any political party. That's what the General does, every time he clumsily puts it out there.

And as a bonus, Hillier opines that the discussion of the detainee issue is "incredibly depressing." It's unfortunate that the General is depressed by the discussion about the inconvenient Geneva Conventions and our government's actions in relation to them. But I'm sure he knows that it's Mr. Harper, Mr. MacKay, Mr. Cannon and Mr. O'Connor who are the lead instigators of that depression. Call it Canada's mid-decade turn into a whole new kind of darkness. There's a new expression for the General.